To the sumptuous island getaways of Ha long, to seductive and endless coffee plantations cat ba, to Saturday vibes from beach paradise at monkey islands or to just break away from the shackles of alarm clocks and Mondays.
Vietnam will offer you a big look so get there to absorb its full flavour along with sun-kissed hair, the conical bamboo hats and rum punches.
It’s a non-profit alarming indulgence into travel which offers you the excitement of a new country while simultaneously the warmth of the cuties of the land get you comfortable in exactly 10 minutes. One destination that serves as an answer to your all ifs and buts. Let’s glide over the “how”??? The travel poppers are budget, too cold, too hot, adventure, but with kids, how about vegetarian food, oh my god what if unsafe or what if diseases and what about nightlife… Caty likes beaches and Cathy likes mountains …all the “potato potahto” situations… Vietnam answers all of it in such less money that you are generally jubilating at the numerous possibilities just like a free electron.
It gets easy to get in from the international airports at Hanoi and Ho chi Minh and right from there Uber takes care of you. The city boasts of absolute safety and a pleasant trailer is green grab bikes with an extra helmet..share location gets picked up and safely dropped. Of course, it’s an ocean of population dotted with bikes and bikes and more bikes. As easy it is to drive them, even easier is to get stuck in traffic for hours. Beginning the city tours, Hanoi is offering history, to nightlife to lake walks to the array of the brilliance of coffee and the great range of properties. But Hanoi charms you with is the stylish and impeccable womenfolk that sense the streets, shops and all work scenes. It’s a matriarchy of sorts- a scene less seen in communist countries. With a colossal manufacturing industry, it’s a shopping paradise and leaves shoppers astonished at the rates and craving for more. A country where Vietnamese dollars sound like a million and value out to be so much lesser. A lot of colourful notes and takes care of most illustrious itineraries. A tourism project which truly scares you the least. The people keep smiling and Vietnam keeps making every morning more surreal than the previous. The French quarters tell stories of yesterdays of Hanoi and a cyclo ride along the beautiful waters peeking into French windows now dressed fresh as post offices and puppet theatres and niche boutiques. It’s akin to the Jewish quarter rides in Prague where you breathe in beauty and breathe out a load of the monotony of the life you leave behind. Hanoi boats of the choicest coffee houses where they strum music which you may not understand but surely it unravels your evening in slo-mo. Each girl who crosses will compel you to adore her. The right colours, the right hair and the right smile. She puts on a little helmet and glides away in a little scooterrette as though she was this teeny-weeny character from the Barbie world. For the weekend feelers, one cannot miss the Hon Kiem lake compulsory walks. The city is lit up like Christmas as the tet holidays or the lunar new year is closing in and the whole city is washed and pinned and started up as a bride. There are noises of harmony between street dancers and musicians to flea marketeers to jugglers. Looks you entered a carnival and the happiness people hold begins to get infectious as the night gets tall. With a plethora of eating options that go beyond KFC, dominos and pizza hut, Vietnamese food is so light and healthy that the holiday here with “Pho”, their base food leaves you feeling fresh and rejuvenated. It does good to the body and you can go on eating without worrying about those mister calories and carbs. The peace-loving and silence around the museums and mausoleum sure do take you deep into the colourful and rich history of Vietnam and also leaves you thinking how without any religion and God’s, this country assumes self-discipline and tolerance in everything and with these elements as a foundation, all they contribute to is progress. It’s crime free so the ladies can be non-conservative and carefree for the country takes care of you. About two days round up including your wicked hour parties at ” Lotte tower” or “the toilet” will wrap up the essence of this lively city and one can advance to stage 2 now.
I moved to ha long bay. Known for infinity waters and island complexes like none other in the world. The mornings begin to crawl in the cruise life cross-crossing ha long. A schedule of activity over the next two days is both enriching and satisfying. Once enough of sea salt air and photos against the sea and sun is done, one gets off after docking into shorts and pick bikes to cycle around the highs and lows of the heritage village of North Vietnam. The rich farms intermittently populated with cafes giving you WiFi access over ice cream purchases. Locals happily participating in your selfies and with a multinational identity entourage on cycles we finish these circuits to beer ourselves and feast on delicacies prepared on the ship. Soon into the immersions of water trail sounds, little boats kiss our Biggie ship, we switch to flip flops n get off at monkey islands into the swarm of well-behaved monkeys. The locals show a bamboo dance and tell proudly about the folklore of the islands. With sand stuck in our feet and as beachy as one could feel at Mauritius or Maldives with the right sets of bikinis around, you just are now convinced that doing this holiday was the rightest call taken. The ochre sunsets dawn upon you and the water turns into a delightful dance show. The air tells you that this trip is gold and let us unravel it nice and slow. You sleep in the dancing waters and wake up to a session of kayaking in between the erections of natural structures meandering through the obstacle course. After the flexing, you are parked at the limestone caves and a walking path guides you into the history created by time alone. Little bulbs light up the dark crevices and form shapes mankind couldn’t even attempt at creating. As the sun goes down and music turns low so many looks into the sky and hold their close ones close and dream of getting lonely together. With these stories strewn together and mixed well with coconut water and images of floating markets one boards again. A cocktail o’clock begins and we learn to make paper rolls and how to get started with chopsticks. The red wine and music take over and the sea breeze becomes in charge. Waking up to a coffee situation is to the sights of pearl farm magically floating on the waters with intense pearl harvesting and some super subsidised pearls for sale. After a good look inside out into the process and the semantics of pearl theory, the high rise cafe overlooking the sea offers you some quick bites and we wear our life jackets to board up again. The night halt was a promising property at cat ba islands with a kilometre to treks and 100m to sea view and an alley full of hip cafes with boho dressings of people of the world. Each one a different colour and each one a storyteller. While everyone is conjoined with the love of beer and tapping and shaking to beats of the music. This evening was to just feel the magic of the terrains one has witnessed over last few days and how generous is Vietnam to keep rolling out more of its treasures without troubling you much. It’s a lit up island as though singing welcome notes for the tourists. Not one moment does the countryside makes you feel unwanted even once, they r Uber helpful so in spite of language barriers I got my way with vegetarian foods. Just carry the right kinds of footwear to see you through different landscapes. There has to be some thought put to packing hacks to keep it light and keep you hassle-free as you lug it up from one transportation to the other because you have to do it all to scale this beauty. A long drive plants you back on the ship which helps you talk it out with people of countries you read in geography classes. You visit so many places via conversations of fellow travellers. Each one is a sound box and a storybook. With all this in Ur suitcases, you deboard to the city again. Some take off to treks into glaciers offered by central Vietnam while some night craving animals like us move to Ho Chi Minh. It gets big from here. Buildings coloured with neon lights ready for tet. Markets sprawling with goodies and People. Sing song atmosphere and these plush lanes and parks making you feel as though you walked right into a postcard. There are open contemporary performances and opera hoardings and theatre enthusiasts and others like me who are posing for photographs and finding the right light to start clicking. As I fold all this into the blankets and layers of my memory, we walk back to a hostel which is beaming with people and energy and foods and swanky reception. You have to crash to recharge for tomorrow as Vietnam is trusting you enough and unfurling its secret tales and chambers. The next day is earmarked for Cu chi tunnels- the saga of courage, sheer grit and determination by the Vietnamese. A village with peasants metamorphosed into a nascent unorganized army to protect their territory against the mightiest power on the planet, US army. By creating a parallel tunnel world in tiers under the earth they not only fought guerilla warfare but ensured that they remain a single entity of Vietnam not divided by lines created between them. They proved themselves to be skilled with innovative ways of Warcraft and with a handful of resources snatched victory and gave the generations a Vietnam of their dreams. They worship ho chi Minh whose bust is scaredly put up to idolise. A full day tour familiarises with the insights unheard of. It gets you hopeful, emotional and proud all at the same time. It showcases strength in poverty and with these larger lessons and choked throats one gets back to the city. The laser beams of rooftop bars already are seducing you to park and climb and reach. Suddenly the stress of travels is blown off by the wind of 22nd floor and the skybar with the single malt transports you to trance flashing your last one week like a film strips. Uber back to the room to dream and then to wake up to live the dream.
As you close the south, Vietnam has already adopted you. U carry trinkets back home for everyone. “Leaving on a jet plane” almost ringing in your ears and excess baggage already stressing you out, it’s time to get on the flight and edit photos and watch yourself guzzling alcohol with “the hangover” and tripping on the trip. Return with love and light. Happy working blues and do return to gold and magic.